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On The Heels Of Losing Stepan For 4-6 Weeks, Rangers Now Down Kevin Klein For 2-3

KleinIt’s been a rough last week or so for the Rangers after an unsustainably good start to the year. A 14-2-2 pace wasn’t realistic over the course of a full season, just like a 96% save percentage & staying fully healthy wasn’t either. Now it seems like it’s all crashing down at once. Despite holding on for a 4-3 win last night, the Blueshirts have dropped 4 of 7 since a Bolts last-minute shorty snapped their 9-game win streak. Lundqvist as finally looked human, Raanta unfairly suffered his first home loss ever and now they’ll play through the holidays without Step (broken ribs) & Klein (strained oblique).
Losing Stepan is a blow to the team, but it’d be hard to prove why based on his start to this season. He’s done the impossible and somehow gotten worse at the face-off dot while struggling to find any chemistry with Chris Kreider & whoever AV flanks him with on the other side. Step was barely on pace for a 40-point season which is a colossal disappointment from a #2 center who was just locked up for $6.5 mil for the next 6 years. The Rangers haven’t skipped a beat offensively though as they’re still one of the league’s higher scoring teams. Hayes got first crack at centering Kreider/Fast but Lindberg skated much of last night in that spot. With Oscar & Kreider both getting on the board for the first time in a while, that trio should stick for a bit.
Kevin Klein’s injury is huge. Everyone wanted him dealt to clear $ this off-season but all he’s done since was play the first quarter of 2015 as the most consistent Rangers blueliner – including McDonagh. Captain McD is still the cream of the crop but he’s had some struggles while bouncing back from his broken foot. Klein’s 20 minutes are gonna be real tough to replace but I’m excited to see what Dylan McIlrath will do with this opportunity. He became a fan favorite this weekend, first throwing hands after Stepan was hit late in Boston. Then he followed up a brutal hit with a pummeling of Luke Schenn despite starting the scrap on his knees vs Philly. Kid is not only tough as nails but has played sound defense & has a heavy shot when he lets it go.
AV’s already said there will be no call-ups as of now, but when they hit the road to Western Canada next week don’t be surprised if they bring Brady Skjei along. Raphael Diaz is still hurt so he’s not an option. Skjei had a solid preseason & fans should be pumped if he gets some time when it counts. As for the immediate future, the first-place Rangers kick off the Barclay’s chapter of their Isles rivalry tomorrow for the entire country to see. Should be a wild one in front of what’ll most likely be 80% Blueshirts fans – you’re welcome, Islanders. Don’t be surprised to see the Rangers rally around their recent struggles & injuries along with the rivalry hype to play their best game in a while.